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Capitol Butte Southwest Ridge, AZ

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Guide 15 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Sedona > Sedona NW
4.2 of 5 by 12
Warning! Technical climbing skills required. Risks include serious injury to death.  Risks are not eliminated by skill.
Climb Consensus (14) → View
Difficulty 3rd
Climb II Boulder
Rock Sandstone Good
Length 40 ft 3 Pitches
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,643 feet
Elevation Gain 1,680 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,830 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 - 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 12.15
Interest Peak
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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7  2015-11-21 TheMtsAreCalling
2  2014-09-04 hippiepunkpirate
13  2014-02-09 josetoe5
15  2014-01-26 wallyfrack
6  2014-01-26 Booneman
9  2010-03-28 Vaporman
13  2010-01-04 hippiepunkpirate
15  2009-10-07 hippiepunkpirate
Page 1,  2
Author hippiepunkpirate
author avatar Guides 25
Routes 36
Photos 2,877
Trips 657 map ( 2,276 miles )
Age 33 Male Gender
Location Peoria, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:26pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Climb Sedona's Centerpiece
by hippiepunkpirate

The standard route to the summit of Capitol Butte is starting from Dry Creek Road and ascending via the southwest ridge. This route follows a rough, intermittent social trail that varies from class 2 to class 3 mountaineering. Class 2 generally describes hiking on talus/scree, which is prominent throughout most the hike. Class 3 describes using your hands and feet to climb, and this hike has its fair share of these sections. The first quarter mile of this route is class 1, standard hiking.

Capitol Butte is notorious for causing climbers to get in over their heads, requiring expensive helicopter rescues. You don't want to be that guy or gal! Here's a few basic rules that you should follow in order to stay out of trouble.
1) Come prepared: water, snacks, first aid, ect.
2) Be aware of your surroundings at all times and use common sense.
3) Don't climb up anything you can't climb down.
4) Stay cool, calm and collected.

Now here are my more specific instructions for the nuances of this route. While the trail intermittently leads all the way to the top, you will lose sight of it on many occasions. I suggest taking a topo of the area, and study pbaenzig's official GPS route before you leave. Have a general idea of where the route should take you. If you have a GPS, upload that route and use it on the hike. When you reach the upper sections, there won't be too many places to go. You just have to read the terrain in the direct vicinity. This route never reaches class 4 status. That means that if you find yourself contemplating a move in which a slight error would result in you tumbling to a likely death: stop, backtrack, and re-evaluate the route. If it seems like you haven't seen the trail in quite a long time: stop, backtrack, and re-evaluate the route.

When I did this climb on May 6th, 2009, I met a man who had just summitted Capitol Butte for the ninth time in his life. That day was his 75th birthday. For the rest of the way up, I found myself contemplating moves with this thought: "If I was 75, would I be able to do this?" It definitely helped me re-evaluate the route in a couple of spots.

As far as sun exposure, it is noteworthy that this route is most safely done in winter, or in the morning during the hotter months. This route has a lot of sun exposure during the afternoon, although the afternoon light provides the best views of Wilson Mountain, Munds Mountain, Mitten Ridge and most other monuments to the south and east. On an 85 degree day in May, I started at 2 PM, and I was hurting after the first half mile.

Hike: From the "trailhead" at the Red Rock Pass dispensing station, you will notice two trails taking off. Take the upper one closer to the sign that says "Off Road Driving Prohibited." Don't get used to the smooth, easy to follow trail. At the first junction, turn left looking toward the butte. You will soon hit another junction at which you will turn left once again. This is where the fun starts! From here on out the trail is intermittent with loose soil and rocks, as well as overgrown vegetation.

You will ascend two smaller slickrock benches (the Bell Rock Member and Fort Apache Member respectively). After the second bench, you will notice a large cliff face looming above. On my ascent, I remember losing the trail at some point along here. Just remember that the trail curves to the left around the cliff (along the north face). You will soon hit the first real class 3 section. It can be avoided by squeezing to the left, but I suggest climbing it. There are sections that are a little more difficult later, so if you aren't comfortable with this, turn around NOW.

Next, you will ascend a bench of Coconino Sandstone (tan-buff colored sandstone, compared to the red Schnebly Hill and Hermit Formations below). You will be climbing and hiking on Coconino for the rest of the ascent. The trail follows on or just below the ridge for a bit. Careful, the trail looks like it goes by this tree, but it doesn't. Instead, turn left and scramble up this slope.

The trail gets steeper, many class 3 sections are encountered (most similar to the first, but longer). There are too many to describe in detail. Use common sense and remember that at no point should you have to move across areas with sheer drops. If you feel out of your comfort level, be safe and turn back. You'll know when you're near the top. Trails split off and criss-cross near the top, just be aware the way you came. There are two big boulders, the eastern-most one is the summit. Celebrate victory and feel free to sign the register!

Care should be taken descending as the loose rocks and soil matched with the steep grade make it easy to slip and fall.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike & climb trip to support this local community.

2009-05-08 hippiepunkpirate
  • wilderness related
  • Sedona Trails 2018
    region related
    Sedona Trails 2018
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Capitol Butte Southwest Ridge
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Took Tim to Sedona and showed this beast. It was cloudy when we arrived, especially to the west. The clouds out that way got darker as we ascended, with thunder and lightning and a wall of rain falling below it. It was headed our way, so we started thinking about finding a place to take cover. Got lucky and found a nice little sandstone overhang right along the route. We stopped here and soon the wall of rain reached us. It was a rather light rain and passed quickly with no thunder and lightning overhead, so we would have been fine out in the open climbing with our rain jackets, but better safe than sorry, especially with potential lightning that the storm showed just 15 minutes earlier. It was a rather pleasant way to watch the squall pass anyway. Rest of the climb was uneventful, with the sun coming out soon after the squall. Had the summit to ourselves, and took in the always great views. As usual, it was a slow descent on the rugged terrain. Ate Picazzo's in Sedona afterward, I was quite impressed, and I know my way around a pizza. A day that involves hiking in Sedona and eating good pizza is automatically an above-average type of day.
Capitol Butte Southwest Ridge
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Researching this hike on HAZ and also soliciting the opinions of others who have recently done it was extremely useful. A few notes:

1) As mentioned by others, downloading & referencing the official gps route is almost essential if you haven't done this hike before, as route-finding can be a challenge.

2) Other sound advice was if the climb looks too crazy, look around as there is probably a better, safer route.

3) If you have a fear of heights, this hike is not for you. There isn't anything really too dangerous on this hike, but several parts are mentally challenging.

4) On the class III sections (and in general), double check your hand-holds, as there are a ton of loose rocks on this trek.

5) This isn't a dog friendly hike, as there are several areas with a small margin for error.

This was an amazing hike/scramble, and allows for rare solitude in Sedona!
Capitol Butte Southwest Ridge
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I somehow ended up on a hike outside the Supes? :o From the reports this is a trail where eagles fear to tread but we must have taken a different route. ;) We started up the Lizard trail and missed the first right but after some discussion and cheating by looking at the route we were back on trail at the cliff under the lizard. The trail is well defined but there are places where you can miss a turn so if it gets crazy turn back and find the trail again. The sandy soil in spots did make a few of the rocks a little slick but this is easy to watch for so no real trouble there. The final climb looks crazy at first glance but once you get going it's class 3 scrambling just as the hike description says. The 360 views on the summit are top notch so this should be on your short list if you're in the area. Reena was in med school shape so Brian, Duane Boone and I circled back to make sure she was on track a few times but no trouble. Since we were in the area a side trip to Devils Bridge was in order as well. Great hike and great company with an after hike beer and burger at Tlaquepaque. I'd do this one again. :y:
Capitol Butte Southwest Ridge
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A great way to start off the New Year! Brought Dustin with me. After killing A.B. Young the day before I got slightly overambitious in thinking we could knock this out in two hours. The climb and views were as excellent as ever. It was a busy day on the summit with two other groups up there. One of the groups headed down just before us and I made the mistake of following them as they soon got off route in the mazanita maze below the summit, where I lost my footing and fell on a manzanita. Got a nice scrape and some bruises. Got back on the route and headed down. Had our own route finding issues where the route leaves the ridge but eventually figured it out. Yet another grest day on Capitol! Dustin said it was one of the 3 or 4 best hikes he's done.
Capitol Butte Southwest Ridge
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What an amazing hike to such a sweet 360 view of Sedona! :D I had a couple hours to burn this late afternoon and I figured what better way to spend it than climbing up this butte and catching the sunset. I'd done this route last fall, so I was able to make short work of the hike up as I rushed to beat the sun as it slowly dropped towards the horizon. :sweat: I made it in time and spend a good 10-15 minutes enjoying the sunset and it's amazing effect on the red & creamy Sedona sandstone as the full moon was slowly rising to the east. On the descent, I ended up using my headlamp for the last 30 minutes and someone thought I was a lost hiker stuck on the mountain and called the Police on me... :sl:
Capitol Butte Southwest Ridge
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Showed this one to my friend Brittain. The theme of the hike was: "How the Agaves Tried to Kill Me". I got pricked in the calf, knee and butt. The one in the knee got me real good. Hurts pretty bad still. At least it made me forget about the pain in my bum left knee. Despite their violent nature, agaves are still so pretty. Bob's gonna sue me for stealing his writing style.
Capitol Butte Southwest Ridge
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I've been curious about this climb for some time, but hippie's recent ascents and write ups finally got me to give it a try. :D Thanks to working until noon in the valley and the eternal road construction of I-17 and Sedona area, I didn't get the the 'trailhead' until 3ish... So I didn't have too much time for route finding and thankfully the trail to the top was fairly straight forwards once I was able to find it. :lol: So I accidently took the very first left and quickly turned back when it started paralleling the road and then I took the next left which shot me towards that drainage to the north of the SW ridge... So FYI ignore the first 2 lefts and take the 3rd one. ;) So from that drainage I decided to bushwhack up that slope to that red rock wall below the SW ridge. And once I found the trail below that wall, it was relatively easy to the saddle and then of course the class 2/3 scramble up to the top. Such sweet views and I didn't have to hike 5-10 miles to see them either! :D
Capitol Butte Southwest Ridge
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Crummy weather in Flag sent me down the Sedona way. Climbing this route took longer than expected as I assumed I was more familiar with it than I actually was. I guess doing a route once and knowing it like the back of your hand are do completely different things! It did seem like the route had less up-climbing and more exposure than I remember from last time. Anyhow, the front passing through brought it beautiful cumulus clouds and stunning light for the already spectacular views.
Capitol Butte Southwest Ridge
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Bad, bad, BAD idea... oh my

Tiptoed through hellish manzanita and worked my way up. It would have been possible to continue. However it didn't seem wise being alone.

Only got up 1000 of the 1700 feet.

Don't believe I care to return. Think I'll stick to trails for a while.

Found TWO trails on the way down. One very good and one an old jeep track. Of course I battled a half mile of hell BETWEEN them going

Permit $$
Red Rock Pass - may or may not be required. Go to Red Rock Pass then check "When is a Red Rock Pass Required?". If you have questions contact the Coconino forest service.

Red Rock - Secret Mountain Wilderness
see map for camping restrictions

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike & climb trip
From the Y in Sedona drive west on 89A. Turn right at Dry Creek Road. Continue for about 2 miles where Dry Creek Road splits as a dirt road to the right. Do not park at the Red Rock Pass dispenser. Find a wide spot alongside the road.
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